Happy Tails: Kids & Their Cats

Do you remember how you felt when you got your first cat? Whether you were four years old or forty, it’s a moment you’ll treasure forever! Here are some wonderful stories about kids who adopted their kitties from MRFRS, and the joy and happiness it brought them.


Raven was a six-year-old kitty seized from a home because her owner was in trouble with the law. She had no interest in other cats, and was overlooked in the shelter because of her age. When her new owner came in to look, her little boy sat down on the floor and Raven crawled right into his lap!


Billiards was only two weeks old when his litter of kittens arrived at MRFRS. We had to put them in foster care as “bottle babies” before they were old enough to be adopted. The person who adopted Billards was looking for a fun, sociable kitten as the first pet for her two children, ages six and four. “We love our cat Billards, who we renamed Admiral Buttons, and are so happy and lucky he is a part of our family.”


Snowball was found as a stray tom in a feral colony before arriving at the shelter. He had a bit of attitude, and the chip on his shoulder was hard to overlook for potential adopters. Finally, someone came in and fell in love with him despite his hard-edged personality. Now at home, he is a sweetheart with all the kids and grandmother, and even gets along with their other pets!


Bradbury was a stray fending for himself in a feral colony. He was very scared and shy at first, but he had obviously had a home sometime before ending up out on his own. His new family came to MRFRS with their children looking for a sweet cat that would be good with their existing cat, and Bradbury–-now called Mookie–warmed right up to the kids and was rolling over for head pats and belly rubs! 
Barnacle Bill was found in the woods outside a school. The faculty and students fed him until they could trap him and get him some help. This poor fellow had only one eye, and was severely emaciated, due to eating anything he could find to survive (including fabric and sand!). We nursed Barnacle Bill–now Lenny–back to health in our sick room for a while before he was ready for adoption. His new adopters came in with their daughter, and it was love at first sight! He sleeps in the daughter’s room at night and is glued to her side.

How to Teach Our Children to Respect Cats

by Jenny Holt, Freelance Writer
If you do not have pets, but you have children, then a time will come when the demand is made for you to get the former. Sometimes this is just an innate desire, sometimes it comes from seeing movies or TV shows or YouTube videos of cats falling in bins or being scared of cucumbers, or it comes from the social pressure of peers with pets. Whatever the reason, it’s natural for a parent to be wary as you do not know if your kids will respect the cat and how long they will look after it before it becomes one of your duties, not theirs. There are many ways to teach children to respect animals before you consider buying or rescuing one.

Before You Get Your Kids a Pet Cat

The best thing any parent can do when preparing their children to have a pet cat is to set a good example. This does not only mean being kind to cats you see or who come into your garden, but talking well about them too. Kids pick up on a lot of what adults do and say, and they use this to model their own behavior. Move this on to reading books about animals together, include TV shows and movies too, and let them express their interest in animals through art or imaginary pets.

Respecting Animals in General

It’s vital that what they learn is applied to all animals in general and not just cats. This ranges from creepy crawlies up to dogs and beyond. Starting with good examples it could mean humane traps for spiders then releasing them into the garden. It could mean taking children to see animals in their natural habitats, the wild, or observing them in the back yard. It’s up to you whether you consider zoos and farms as suitable places or not. Though one thing which is good is to not take them to see circuses or water parks where animals perform. Explain to them why it’s not good for the animals. Together you can also spend time picking up litter which might harm animals, so they understand the consequences of littering.

Introducing Your Cat to Your Kids

First, it’s important for children to interact with the cat they are going to adopt. A good way to do this is to take them to a shelter. This way they get to meet cats, see their different personalities and learn about them. It is also a good opportunity to teach them how to pet and stroke cats in the right way. Reinforce all good behavior with compliments and praise. They may fall in love with one particular cat or a pair, while knowing a little about them and their past. Hopefully by now your children will have a great respect for your new cat(s), but take it easy. Make sure they keep their responsibilities and allow the cat their freedom to be who they are.

Ask the Vet: All about pediatric spay/neuter.

by Dr. Sam Simonelli

If you are reading this newsletter, chances are you have a cat… or are planning on adopting one. Have you thought about when is the best time to schedule that all-important spay or neuter surgery? Shelter veterinarians have been performing “early” spays and neuters for years. What does that mean and is it safe for your kitten?

Pediatric, or early, spay and neuter is the surgical sterilization of an immature animal, usually between 6-14 weeks of age. This is a safe and effective procedure that has the support of numerous medical and humane experts, including the AVMA, AAHA, HSUS, ASPCA and the AAFP. Let’s look at some of the benefits of having your cat spayed or neutered early.

Community benefits

According to the most recent ASPCA data, 3.4 million cats enter shelters every year with 1.4 million of them eventually being euthanized. Spaying or neutering your cat when it is young eliminates the risk of unwanted litters of kittens. With fewer cats being surrendered, there is less shelter crowding and stress for the cats there, giving them a greater chance of them finding a loving home.

Health benefits

The time required to complete surgery can be much shorter for a pediatric animal, leading to decreased time under anesthesia and fewer surgical complications. Early spay can greatly reduce or eliminate the risk of malignant mammary cancer and pyometra, a life threatening infection of the uterus. According to data compiled in the2013 Banfield State of Pet Health Report, female cats live 39% longer when they are spayed and males live a whopping 62% longer!

Behavioral benefits

Behavioral issues are a huge reason cats get surrendered to shelters. Early spay and neuter can reduce or eliminate some unwanted behaviors such as urine spraying, inappropriate urination (i.e. outside the litter box), aggression/fighting and roaming (for indoor/outdoor cats).

Fewer euthanized animals, longer life for your cat, no litter box issues… that all sounds pretty good. Are there any risks to pediatric spay and neuter?

Possible risks

Your veterinarian must be comfortable performing surgery and administering anesthesia on these very small animals. Younger cats have a lower percentage of body fat and are more susceptible to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Care must be taken to keep these patients warm during surgery and in recovery. Pre-operative fasting time should be kept to a minimum and animals can be fed soon after surgery.

As always, it’s most important to have a conversation with your regular veterinarian about what is right for your pet. An early spay or neuter may be the best decision for your new kitten.

MEOW! It’s our 25th anniversary!

Twenty-five years ago, a few caring souls decided to come to the aid of the 300+ free-roaming cats just surviving along the Newburyport waterfront. The effort they launched was one of the first in the nation to use Trap-Neuter-Return to improve the lives of free-roaming cats.  Once the cats had been trapped and spayed/neutered, they were fed twice a day at waterfront feeding stations and monitored for illness, injury, and any new additions. Thanks to that incredible work, the final cat in the waterfront colonies, “Zorro,” passed away in 2009.

In 2017, we are proud that, through continued expansion of our efforts, the Merrimack River Feline Rescue Society has now assisted over 114,000 cats—free-roaming and owned, sick and healthy, young and old—in Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.

Today, our organization has 18 staff, over 200 active volunteers and a line-up of effective and life-saving initiatives that benefit cats and the people who care for and about them. This year, we plan to celebrate our extraordinary past, and to look forward to our next 25 years.

Click here to learn more about the work of the MRFRS.

Four Tips for a Cat-Safe Celebration

The year-end holidays are a joyous time. Let’s not ruin them with a trip to the vet! We’ve assembled a few tips to keep in mind while you’re decorating and dining to keep your kitty safe this weekend.


The soft glow of candlelight adds warmth to holiday gatherings. It also occasionally adds fire to houses. Cats don’t know this though and may bump candles or the furniture they are on, knocking candles over and causing an emergency.

Pets may also try to play with the flickering flames which will lead to burns and other injuries. We suggest using safe, battery powered candles. The realistic, flickering light will add ambiance to your holiday table but they won’t ruin the celebration if your kitty accidentally pulls the tablecloth.

Tinsel and Ribbon

Glistening tinsel and curly cue ribbons decorate the tree and presents but they pose a risk to cats. Both are fun to play with but are easy to swallow. Once consumed these materials can cause everything from discomfort to death in dogs and cats.

We suggest you avoid these items all together and opt for big, fun-to-bat-around-but-hard-to-eat bows, but if you feel like you can’t live without it, keep your veterinarian’s number on hand and contact them immediately if you suspect your pet might have ingested a decoration.

And…while we realize this is kind of icky…if you see ribbon or tinsel hanging from your cat’s butt – don’t pull it! It may cause internal injury. Contact your vet for assistance.

Holiday Foods

Everyone knows the highlight of the holidays is big meals, snacks and sweets shared with family. But let’s not share some of these items with the cat. Chocolates can cause diarrhea, vomiting and death due to caffeine and methylxanthine content. The general rule is the richer the chocolate the more dangerous it is. Luckily, chocolates aren’t as appealing to cats as they are to their canine companions but if you think your cat has gotten into that tray of fudge you were saving for guests call your vet or the ASPCA’s poison control at (888) 426-4435. (Be aware they do charge a consultation fee for this call.)

Other items you’ll want to keep out away from your cat? Nuts, bones and fat trimmings. Both are choking hazards, can cause digestive issues and fat trimmings can lead to pancreatitis.

But the slice of turkey your cat has been eyeing all day? YES! It is Christmas after all. Feel free to share!

Holiday Plants

Many of you already know that lilies are extremely poisonous cats, and that poinsettias can cause stomach upset — but did you know many other plants can make your cat sick — or worse? Check out the ASPCA’s list of plants!

Luckily, they taste pretty bad, but then your cat also enjoys the smell of you gym shoes so it’s best not to risk it.

Keep in mind also that pine needles, mistletoe and holly are also toxic when ingested. If you must have them, place them out of your cat’s reach!

Have a safe and happy holiday season!